Chapter 19

Ancient Runes was a fascinating subject to Hermione, despite Harry's insistence to the contrary. It was a class she actively looked forward to each day, and Professor Vector was one of her favorite teachers. Unfortunately, Faye Dunbar also was enrolled in the class, which meant Hermione was subjected to snide remarks, ever since the witch created the Muggle Brigade.

"Merlin, give it a rest Dunbar," a female student finally snapped just as Hermione's irritation manifested via sparks in her thick curls. Mid-sentence, Dunbar turned to see who had interrupted her rant.

"Parkinson," Faye sneered, identifying the Slytherin student who'd spoken. "What do you want?"

"Right now, I desire the ability to work on this Rune translation without your incessant whining about Black's recent change in social status," Pansy answered, without bothering to look up from her desk. "If I didn't know better, I'd believe you were sworn to the goddess Artemis."

Dunbar's face etched with confusion even as Hermione snorted. When it became clear that Faye did not understand the inference of Pansy's comment, Hermione took pity upon the other muggleborn witch.

"Artemis is a Greek goddess who denounced men, specificallyagainst pro-creating with them. While most stories suggest she remained chaste, several contradict those, insisting that instead Artemis took many female lovers," Hermione explained, watching as the confusion on Dunbar's face twisted to anger against Parkinson, who merely looked bemused at the witch's ire.

"Seriously?" Dunbar hissed. "You're trying to pretend you're familiar with muggle mythology?"

"Witches and Wizards revere those gods and goddesses," Hermione corrected her as Pansy stared at Faye as though she'd never heard anyone sound more stupid.

"There's nothing wrong with pledging yourself to her," Pansy said, clearly focusing on her translation rather than her disgust over Faye's ignorance. "I mean, it's certainly not a commonchoice amongst pledges, but no one will shame you, especially if they're aware of your crush on Black."

Faye's horrified silence only prompted the Slytherin to continue her tirade, "I mean, isn't that why you keep gossiping about her, to secure her attention? While , it's certainly overdone and pathetic, it's also the route wizards usually go at our age to secure a witch's consideration."

Despite Hermione's tendency to avoid and look down on bullying, she couldn't resist enjoying the gratification at having Dunbar put into her place. The blonde Gryffindor witch openly gaped at Pansy, before her face twisted into a sneer, which she directed towards Hermione.

"Shut up Parkinson!" Faye snarled. "Is this the type of company you're keeping now, Granger? Not only do your abandon your parents for a criminal, but now you're spending time with bigoted purists who spit on people like us and our parents? Have you really fallen so far off the reservation?"

Parkinson looked unimpressed at Faye before turning to Hermione, "No wonder you and Potter sequester yourselves so much. I don't know how either you or Potter stomach living in such proximity to the levels of stupidity displayed here. Besides what self-respecting witch lives on a dragon reserve unless they're employed there?"

"It's a muggle phrase," Hermione told Pansy, who disregarded the information.

"I mean, I knew Gryffindors weren't well endowed in the art of subtlety, but until now I believed your lot possessed at least a shred of intelligence," Pansy said.

The brunette sniffed haughtily before explaining, "I don't judge plebeians on abilities they'll never possess."

"Excuse me! Exactly who do you think you're calling a plebeian?" Faye hissed as Pansy sent Hermione an amused smile.

"I see you've been introduced to Draco's mum."

"Family is life," Hermione answered, providing the response Narcissa, Sirius, and Andromeda insisted upon to project a unity front to the public. Even as Hermione and Pansy spoke, Fayecontinued to swear about Hermione being a sellout.

"Are you really stupid enough to insult the Heir of the Ancient House of Black publicly?" Pansy finally demanded, looking horrified at the muggleborn witch.

"She's nothing more than a traitor to what it means to be muggleborn," Faye snarled. "Perfect little Granger, with her perfect little family throws it all away to join the Blacks."

"You really are that stupid," Pansy muttered shaking her head as a large phoenix appeared into the room with an entrance of flames and smoke. "Please feel free to include me as a witness if you decided to prosecute the bint for slander."

"Of course," Hermione said demurely, returning her focus to the assignment in front of her. Narcissa, Andromeda, and her mum insisted that less was always more amongst the elite. Honestly, if she thought the Sirius and her mum were compatible, the three women got a long like a house on fire.

Upon first meeting between Narcissa Malfoy, Jean Granger took one look at the blonde witch and informed her that the Chanel dress she was wearing was out of season by at least two years., and suggested that if the witch insisted on elitism to at least be current on the fashions. Draco nearly fainted when his mum outright smiled in response.

"Miss Black," Professor Vector called from the front of the Ancient Runes classroom. Hermione looked up surprised at the interruption. "Professor Dumbledore would like you to meet him in his office."

Hermione cursed the Headmaster for picking now to demand a meeting. Sirius had insisted that she and Harry avoid Dumbledore at all costs. Now, because Harry didn't take Ancient Runes, she'd be alone with the old man. Reluctantly, she stood to accept the pass Fawkes delivered from Professor Vector, but Pansy's voice had her pause.

"We'll speak later?"

"Of course," Hermione answered before departing, already feeling Dunbar glaring into her back.

Walking towards the gargoyle statute that guarded the Headmaster's office, Hermione provided it with the password and headed up the ostentatious staircase. Despite her aversion to the overdone and unnecessary features, Hermione knocked on the heavy oak door which opened to reveal Professor Dumbledore sitting behind his desk.

"Ah, Miss Granger, please have a seat," he said, gesturing towards the chair in front of his desk. Silently, Hermione maneuvered into the office, gracefully lowering herself into the chair indicated.

Despite her aversion to relinquishing her surname in favor of Sirius', Narcissa and Andromeda had emphasized why the insistence on calling her Ms. Granger was a perceived insult in the Wizarding World: "Magic has designated you worthy to bear the Black magical signature. Persisting on calling you Miss Granger is an insult to Magic itself."

Even her mum agreed with them, and explained that ignoring such behavior would create an opening for enemies to question her status as Sirius' heir apparent. Pansy Parkinson mocked Faye Dunbar for her failure to recognize the slanderous crime she was committing by constantly mocking Hermione's adoption. Albus Dumbledore, however, knowingly chose to commit this faux pau.

Sitting in front of the Headmaster of Hogwarts, Hermione channeled the strongest woman she knew: Jean Granger. The British Enclave, for all its magic and thrills, failed to recognize true strength, much less how to properly wield it. The community waited for public displays of raw magical power, such as Albus Dumbledore's defeat of Grindelwald, and You Know Who being defeat by an infant to determine whether a wizard was powerful. Relying on this poor perceptive, erased true heroes like Lily Potter and Hermione's mum.

True power couldn't be hidden, and it most certainly didn't need ostentatious displays. It emerged from every pore, displayed itself through posture and tilts of the head. Narcissa and Andromeda Black's power showed itself through their poise and grace, whereas Sirius' communicated through a lens of laziness.

Actions have consequences," Dumbledore said, finally deigning to speak. "Quite frankly your choices as of late have left me utterly baffled."

Hermione smiled sweetly, "I would say the exact same about yours."

"Be that as it may, Ms. Granger, I am not in direct violation of the school's code of conduct. Nor have I placed myself in academic jeopardy through those actions."

"I beg your pardon?" Hermione asked. "Exactly what are you trying to insinuate?"

"Ms. Granger, the Hogwarts Board of Governors has installed a rigorous student code of conduct for centuries, designed to protect student safety. One of the foremost provisions prohibits unauthorized dueling between students. In the last few days alone, I have received numerous reports of you participating in said infractions and sending multiple students to the hospital wing."

"Unsubstantiated claims I take it," Hermione concluded, as Dumbledore looked at her in obvious confusion. "You've received unsubstantiated reports, otherwise referred to as 'hear say."

"There is a muggle saying, 'Where there's smoke, there's fire," Dumbledore answered.

"You do realize that smoke can occur without flames?" Hermione retorted.

"Redirecting spells with a shield charm, while clever, still qualifies as participating in an illicit duel."

"The Student code of conduct does not strictly prohibit actions classified as defense," Hermione retorted.

"Semantics," Dumbledore answered with a bored shrug. "Certainly, those you've injured will see your actions as full participation."

"You have no evidence," Hermione said, shaking her head angrily. "As I've already pointed out, all you have hear-say that you cannot actually connect to my magical signature. Precisely how do you plan to get the Board of Governors to approve of any punishment with such insufficient proof?"

"Ms. Granger."

"My last name is Black, or have you not been reading the Daily Prophet?" Hermione said, her voice practically snarling.

"Yes, how are your parents? I'm sure the adoption came as quite a surprise to them. Losing rights to their only child, would be such a trauma for any parent," Dumbledore said, suddenly changing the conversation.

"I wasn't aware you had children," Hermione said sweetly. "No doubt any child you fathered must feel utterly neglected since you're locked in a boarding school for two-thirds of the year." The glare from the old man was worth the snarky comment.

"I cannot imagine the insult your new guardian inflicted upon your parents," Dumbledore said, clearly choosing to ignore her. Hermione smiled coldly at her Headmaster as her mind suddenly flickered to the joke Harry had made earlier. In a split second she made a choice.

"Oh no," Hermione said. "Mum is absolutely delighted to be reunited with Sirius. She doesn't talk about it much, but no doubt being repudiated by her parents at such a young age is traumatic." While Dumbledore stared at her, Hermione focused on the interactions between Jean and Sirius. The wizard swore the best lies were created out of truth. Rather than give Dumbledore the opportunity to question her, she continued prattling onward.

"Mum positively adores Harry, and has made her new project to correct the damage done to his health over the years. Quite simply, it's adorable to watch Harry around a doting mother."

"Why would Mr. Potter's health be a factor?" Dumbledore askedprojecting a look of concern upon his face.

"Oh, are you unaware of the long-term damage malnourishmentcan have on the human body?" Hermione asked, her voice slick with feigned concern. Without waiting for his reaction, shecontinued explaining the side effects.

"It has a significant impact on a human's lifespan, not to mention the developmental issues such as stunted growth, muscle-weakness, and weight loss issues. That's not even considering the impact of malnourishment from a young age, and returning each year to living in those conditions for multiple months each year. Mum is greatly concerned about Harry's health, and has him seeing several professionals including a nutritionist, pediatrician and psychologist."

"I see you have fallen prey to these outlandish claims that Sirius Black has created to ensnare Mr. Potter," Dumbledore said, suddenly sounding weary and irritated. Hermione tilted her head to the left, before asking a single question.

"Did you ever ask why Harry and Ron chose to fly a car to Hogwarts during their second year?"

"They couldn't get through to the platform," Dumbledore answered, "I'm sure you're aware of the interference that the Malfoy house-elf created to keep Mr. Potter safe that year."

"How did Harry and Ron even think to use a Ford Angelina?" Hermione pressed, and as the Headmaster shrugged, she provided the information, "Ron and his twin brothers took the car to Privet Drive earlier that summer when Harry wasn't returning Ron's owls, where they had to remove iron bars from Harry's bedroom window to get him out."

"Ms. Granger, surely you realize that adolescent boys are prone to embellishment," Dumbledore said as Hermione scoffed. "No doubt an attempt to escape the punishment, which Mrs. Weasley handed out immediately, or to impress a pretty girl."

"Your failure to recognize truth is that you think I fell for some pretty lies," Hermione said rising to her feet. "I've not fallen for anything, I've simply chosen to believe my best friend."